From Stephen Downes, a post from Michael Umphrey that emphasizes the importance of actually improving students’ writing (at the high school level — but gosh darn golly, maybe something like that would even help college and graduate students). Some of the standout points include Stephen’s comment that “I do believe that there are good reasons for good writing, and that there are ways to become a better writer. Clarity and precision – whether in writing, art or athletics – are virtues, because they help you obtain your objectives. The principles of writing are intended, in the first instance, to foster clarity and precision,”; Michael’s observation that although “empowerment, authenticity, and voice” may identify dimensions of writing that teachers should encourage, “research (not just Googling). . . . truth, and accuracy” were pretty desirable too (I would add “even more desirable,” and I’d import Stephen’s “clarity and precision” here. Plus, “knowing the difference between an argument and an opinion).”
Michael suggests that getting students to write online, where they stand visibly responsible for what they say, would be a good step — blogging, for instance.
Michael notes that you can’t simply assume that accredited teachers make good writers (one might think this self-evident, but the ideological power of credentials obscures the obvious in this as so many other respects). Teachers need to be taught to write better, and the whole curriculum should support the value of strong, clear, focused writing — otherwise, in a culture that accords little explicit emphasis to effective expression, it will be perceived as a cranky obsession of the minority who uphold it. “Promote this school as the place where writing matters.” In theological education, one can only imagine what would happen if a particular seminary got the reputation as forming remarkably articulate, effective preachers and communicators.
It’s not that it has been tried, and found wanting. It’s that it has been found difficult, and not tried.